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A Parent's Instruction Manual

By Carol Welsh

Just when we seem to have parenting techniques that work with the first child we discover that they don't work with the next. Wouldn't it be great if children were born with instructions? When you understand your children's perceptual styles, you'll discover they really are born with an "instruction manual."

Each of us is a unique combination of the Four Perceptions: Audio, Feeler, Visual, and Wholistic. When children are born, they are 100 percent Feelers. Although they will continue to have sensitive feelings during their formative years, their primary Perception will begin to reveal itself when they're about six months old.

The following is an excerpt of a story that reveals how differently the child behaves based on his primary perceptual style.

The principal desire for AUDIO Children is to maintain personal control and a sense of fairness. I was sitting in the allergist's office when a woman entered with her four-year-old, Aaron, and his cousins, Carrie, 13, and Curt, 11. Immediately Aaron started acting silly. His mother told him to sit down and behave. "No! he shouted and giggled.

He picked up magazines and threw them on the floor. "Pick them up and put them back, his mother demanded. Aaron hurled them on the table and then noisily started rolling and kicking on the floor.

His mother glared. "Get up and sit down right now! His seat barely touched the cushion before he was back on the floor again.

His mother said in a firm voice, "When we get home, we're having a cookout and then we're going swimming. If you don't behave, you will eat in your room and stay there for the rest of the night. The choice is yours."

The change in Aaron was instantaneous. "I'll be good."

Aaron's actions were motivated by his desire to maintain personal control. He wanted to show off to his cousins. When his control of the situation was threatened, his emotions drove his reactions and he became defiant.

When Aaron's mother gave him a choice, it allowed him to maintain personal control and he sensed the fairness.

The principal desire for FEELER Children is to please you or not make you angry. For Feelers, their feelings drive both their actions and reactions. Here is a summary of the same scenario about Aaron, only this time he's a Feeler.

Aaron was excited because his cousins were visiting. He started spinning around with his arms outstretched. Suddenly he lost his balance and crashed into the corner of the end table."That's enough! his mother snapped. "Come over here and sit down right now."

With his eyes lowered and shoulders hunched, he crept over to the chair in the corner. He drew up his knees and rested his head on his knees. Soon he quietly raised his head to wipe away a tear. Then he slid off his chair and pulled his shorts down to reveal the bruise to his mother while tears flowed and he whimpered, "I hurt myself."

"I'm sure it hurts, but it will get better, she said matter-of-factly.

Aaron threw his arms around his mother and said he was sorry. "It's okay, she said and smiled. Aaron glowed. All was right with his world. His mother wasn't mad at him. With a happy smile, he said, "I love you."

The principal desire for Visual Children is for everything to be perfect, just as they visualized it.

Visual children are usually obedient, unless they have to deal with an unexpected change. Then they might resist. Let's revisit Aaron as a Visual child.

Aaron was excited because his cousins were visiting. "Let's play! he thought. He leaned against his cousin, Curt, and started pushing on his knees. Curt playfully pushed back Aaron's shoulders.

Aaron pushed harder. Curt returned the shove a little too hard and Aaron suddenly plopped on the floor. He giggled loudly and started pushing his cousin's legs with his feet.

"Stop that, Curt demanded. Aaron pushed again. This was fun!

"Aaron, his mother said sternly, "get up and sit down next to me."

Aaron climbed on to the chair. While he looked down at the floor, humiliation engulfed him. What must his cousins think of him?

When his mother's name was called, she got up to leave. Aaron quickly slid out of his chair and tearfully ran toward her. She turned and said, "You can stay and Carrie can read to you."

"But we always go together! Aaron wailed. His mother stretched out her hand and he gratefully took it. She realized he wanted to do what they usually do, get their shots together. Visuals like routine because they can visualize what comes next.

The principal desire for Wholistic Children is to be treated like an adult. Since Wholistic children see themselves as adults, usually they are well behaved unless they're tired, bored or resentful. How different is Aaron's story as a Wholistic.

Aaron ran over to the chairs and asked Curt to sit on one side of him and Carrie on the other. Aaron pointed out the children's books. "I know all of them, he boasted. "Would you like one? Carrie nodded.

Carrie started reading but it was going too slowly for Aaron. "I'll read, he said. He took the book and started telling the story. He quickly zipped through all the books.

As the minutes ticked by, boredom struck. He crawled under Carrie's chair. "I'm in my cave and if you get too close, I'll eat you, he squealed delightedly. He tickled the back of Carrie's legs. She let out a yell and stood up. Aaron laughed uproariously.

He pushed his head against the back of Curt's legs. "If you don't open the door right now, I'll bite you! Curt parted his legs and Aaron squirmed through. The game was over.

Restlessness swept over Aaron again. He heard thunder and perked up. "Can I go see the storm?

Carrie volunteered to take him. He instantly went from looking completely wilted to gleefully running to the door.

Soon he burst into the room. "Mommy, you should see the rainbow. Hurry before it goes away! Ah, the wonderful, exciting world of new things to explore and investigate. And he was standing tall as his mother placed her arm around his shoulders.

When you recognize how each perceptual style influences actions and reactions, this insight helps you accept your children as they are instead of comparing them to other children. All children respond to love and acceptance.

About The Author
Carol Welsh, M.S., is the author of "Stop When You See Red." She has over 25 years of experience as a speaker and is a frequent guest on talk shows. Her Web site is


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